Dean Stockwell, the veteran character actor best known for portrayal of Rear Admiral Albert “Al” Calavicci in Quantum Leap, has passed away. He was 85 years old. Stockwell began his career as a child actor, working under contract for MGM in the 1940s, and eventually became a familiar face to most movie buffs, with film critic Bilge Ebiri of Vulture describing him upon his passing as “a great actor who never met a scene he couldn’t steal.” Stockwell’s career spanned nearly 70 years, with his final onscreen appearance coming in 2015’s Entertainment, an indie film that also starred John C. Reilly and Tye Sheridan.
According to his family, Stockwell passed away in his sleep from natural causes. In 2015, Stockwell had retired from acting following a stroke.
Stockwell’s career can be broken up into two periods, although the end of the first is somewhat hazy. he appeared in films like The Boy With the Green Hair and Kim as a child, then moved into movies like Compulsion (for which he earned Best Actor recognition at the Cannes Film Festival) and Long Day’s Journey Into Night (another Cannes award). The opus of this period was Dennis Hopper’s The Last Movie, after which Stockwell’s resume got spotty for years. According to The Guardian, by the early 1980s, he was making most of his money selling real estate rather than acting.
That wouldn’t last long, though; he was cast in David Lynch’s adaptation of Dune in 1984, and that kickstarted a career revival. Throughout the rest of the ’80s, he worked consistently, with roles in films like To Live and Die in L.A., Blue Velvet, and Beverly Hills Cop II. He also scored appearances on hit TV series like Miami Vice and The Twilight Zone, while also working on future cult classics like Tucker: The Man and His Dream.
In 1988, Stockwell scored the role of Tony “The Tiger” Russo in filmmaker Jonathan Demme’s Married to the Mob. He would earn an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for the part.
The next year, he landed his career-defining role as Al on Quantum Leap, and worked consistently for the rest of his career. Some of the highlights include a recurring role as Duke Nukem on Captain Planet and the Planeteers, The Langoliers, The Tony Danza Show, and JAG. He also visited the DC Universe occasionally, appearing in the ’90s staple Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and voicing Tim Drake in the animated movie Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker. He appeared in the 2004 reinvention of Battlestar Galactica, in which he played Brother Cavil.
In his later years, Stockwell became a convention circuit regular, meeting with fans and making panel appearances.
Voices from Hollywood and the geek sphere have been sharing their thoughts on Stockwell’s life and career on social media.
“I’m so unbelievably sad,” said prominent YouTuber Allison Pregler, who recently unearthed a previously-lost alternate ending to the Quantum Leap finale featuring Stockwell’s character. “What a talent.”
Our thoughts go out to Mr. Stockwell’s friends, family, fans, and collaborators during this difficult time.
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